STEPPING STONES TO A GLAD TOMORROW

Read: 2 Corinthians 4: 8-18

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all

(2 Corinthians 4:17).

 Paul wanted the Corinthian church to see that God’s grace working through his many troubles and trials could cause “thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (v.15).  They were so severe that he was “hard pressed on every side,” “perplexed,” “persecuted,” and “struck down” (v.8-9). “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (v.16).

Some think that the grace of God should keep us from all trials and conflicts.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  God brings or allows trials in our lives for His good purposes. Well then, what about someone like the apostle Paul?  You would think, for example, that during his great missionary journey to Rome, he would have been kept by God’s sovereign power, yet he experienced just the opposite.  He narrowly escaped drowning after a shipwreck at Malta where he shook off a poisonous snake hanging from his hand (Acts 27-28).

Our trials are intended to make us more useful in His service.  No one is excluded.

The pressure on Paul was persistent, but he always emerged victorious through the grace and strength of Jesus Christ.  He said here in 2 Corinthians 4:10, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

 At times, life’s pain can be so overwhelming that we are tempted to despair.  Paul told the Corinthians that the hardships he suffered in Asia were so intense he “despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8). “Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.  But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead” (v.9).  By shifting his focus to his life-sustaining God, he became resilient instead of overwhelmed.

Many fail to experience this principle because they expect to receive it all without a struggle.  When conflicts come and the battle continues, they become discouraged.  Difficult times and places are our schools of faith and character.

Focusing on ourselves can lead to despair, but trusting God gives us a different perspective—and hope. God’s promises will never fail, and those who patiently wait will not be disappointed—for believing faith leads to reality.

We can endure our trials today because of heaven’s joys that await us tomorrow.  No matter what happens in this life we are assured of salvation through Jesus Christ with eternal peace and joy in the next!

Tribulation, grief, and sorrow

Are but heaven’s stepping stones

To a bright and glad tomorrow

Where no heartache can be known. –Glass

“BUT NOT”

We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed

(2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

In his Our Daily Bread devotional (11-13-06), David McCasland shares the following story:

In 2005, the surprising Boys Town High School Cowboys carried a perfect record into a Nebraska state semi-final football game. But more important, the players had taken giant strides toward overcoming their family backgrounds of abuse, abandonment, and neglect that had brought them to the safe, caring environment of Boys Town.

 Their coach, Kevin Kush, believes that football is a way to build character, and says: “Victories at Boys Town are not won on a present-day athletic field. They are won years from now in cities and towns across this country when our players become productive citizens.” His team plays to win while pursuing higher goals of sportsmanship, discipline, and teamwork.

Paul had a similar long-range view of our experience as followers of Christ. In the midst of personal setbacks, he urged the Corinthians not to lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:17). In spite of loss, we are to pursue the higher goals of God’s kingdom now, anticipating our eternal triumph in Christ.

Paul encourages us with these words in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9:

We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed–-Our enemies may surround us and difficulties may come from every side, but they will not crush or defeat us because we have God’s peace and protection.  He has cleared a path just wide enough for our exit.

Perplexed, but not in despair—Our way may be thwarted or completely blocked yet we can persevere because there is just enough light to see the next step or a way of escape.

Persecuted, but not abandoned—The enemy doggedly pursues us but our God stands nearby. He will never desert us.-

Struck down, but not destroyed—Even though the enemy, sickness, troubles and trials strike us and knock us down, it is not a fatal blow.  We will rise again!  We may be overthrown but we shall overcome!

Although the word “hope” does not appear in these two verses, they describe how hope operates.  Hope is the confident expectation we have in the character, promises, goodness, and power of our God.  It is expressed in the four times Paul used the simple words “but not.”  In the midst of our overwhelming circumstances, we can and we must hope in Him (Romans 15:13).

The Boys Town Cowboys were “disappointed but not devastated” when they lost their playoff game 10-0.   McCasland further explains: “Their coach had taught them to keep going because their true victory in life is still to come.  And so is ours in Christ.”  (See v. 14.)

Lord, give us grace to trust You when

Life’s burdens seem too much to bear;

Dispel the darkness with new hope

And help us rise above despair. –Sper